gift of God. (1.) The son of Levi, and father of Heli (Luke
(2.) Son of another Levi (Luke 3:29).
oil, one of the sons of Kohath, and grandson of Levi (Ex. 6:18,
21; Num. 16:1).
white, one of the two sons of Gershon, the son of Levi (Ex.
6:17; Num. 3:18, 21). (See LAADAN ¯(n/a).)
assembly, the second son of Levi, and father of Amram (Gen.
46:11). He came down to Egypt with Jacob, and lived to the age
of one hundred and thirty-three years (Ex. 6:18).
judged; vindicated, daughter of Jacob by Leah, and sister of
Simeon and Levi (Gen. 30:21). She was seduced by Shechem, the
son of Hamor, the Hivite chief, when Jacob's camp was in the
neighbourhood of Shechem. This led to the terrible revenge of
Simeon and Levi in putting the Shechemites to death (Gen. 34).
Jacob makes frequent reference to this deed of blood with
abhorrence and regret (Gen. 34:30; 49:5-7). She is mentioned
among the rest of Jacob's family that went down into Egypt (Gen.
(1.) The father of James the Less, the apostle and writer of the
epistle (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13), and the
husband of Mary (John 19:25). The Hebrew form of this name is
Cleopas, or Clopas (q.v.).
(2.) The father of Levi, or Matthew (Mark 2:14).
sad; bitter, the youngest son of Levi, born before the descent
of Jacob into Egypt, and one of the seventy who accompanied him
thither (Gen. 46:11; Ex. 6:16). He became the head of one of the
great divisions of the Levites (Ex. 6:19). (See MERARITES
kindred of the prince. (1.) The father of Nahshon, who was chief
of the tribe of Judah (Num. 1:7; 2:3; 7:12, 17; 10:14). His
daughter Elisheba was married to Aaron (Ex. 6:23).
(2.) A son of Kohath, the second son of Levi (1 Chr. 6:22),
called also Izhar (2, 18).
(3.) Chief of the 112 descendants of Uzziel the Levite (1 Chr.
kindred of the High; i.e., "friend of Jehovah." (1.) The son of
Kohath, the son of Levi. He married Jochebed, "his father's
sister," and was the father of Aaron, Miriam, and Moses (Ex.
6:18, 20; Num. 3:19). He died in Egypt at the age of 137 years
(Ex. 6:20). His descendants were called Amramites (Num. 3:27; 1
Chr. 26:23). (2.) Ezra 10:34.
the devoting or setting apart of anything to the worship or
service of God. The race of Abraham and the tribe of Levi were
thus consecrated (Ex. 13:2, 12, 15; Num. 3:12). The Hebrews
devoted their fields and cattle, and sometimes the spoils of
war, to the Lord (Lev. 27:28, 29). According to the Mosaic law
the first-born both of man and beast were consecrated to God.
In the New Testament, Christians are regarded as consecrated
to the Lord (1 Pet. 2:9).
firm. (1.) "The Ezrahite," distinguished for his wisdom (1 Kings
4:31). He is named as the author of the 89th Psalm. He was of
the tribe of Levi.
(2.) A Levite of the family of Merari, one of the leaders of
the temple music (1 Chr. 6:44; 15:17, 19). He was probably the
same as Jeduthun. He is supposed by some to be the same also as
he-ass, a Hivite from whom Jacob purchased the plot of ground in
which Joseph was afterwards buried (Gen. 33:19). He is called
"Emmor" in Acts 7:16. His son Shechem founded the city of that
name which Simeon and Levi destroyed because of his crime in the
matter of Dinah, Jacob's daughter (Gen. 34:20). Hamor and
Shechem were also slain (ver. 26).
the attitude generally assumed in Israel by those who were
engaged in any kind of work. "The carpenter saws, planes, and
hews with his hand-adze, sitting on the ground or upon the plank
he is planning. The washerwoman sits by the tub; and, in a word,
no one stands when it is possible to sit. Shopkeepers always
sit, and Levi sitting at the receipt of custom (Matt. 9:9) is
the exact way to state the case.", Thomson, Land and Book.
adhesion. (1.) The third son of Jacob by Leah. The origin of the
name is found in Leah's words (Gen. 29:34), "This time will my
husband be joined [Heb. yillaveh] unto me." He is mentioned as
taking a prominent part in avenging his sister Dinah (Gen.
34:25-31). He and his three sons went down with Jacob (46:11)
into Egypt, where he died at the age of one hundred and
thirty-seven years (Ex. 6:16).
(2.) The father of Matthat, and son of Simeon, of the
ancestors of Christ (Luke 3:29).
(3.) Luke 3:24.
(4.) One of the apostles, the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14; Luke
5:27, 29), called also Matthew (Matt. 9:9).
an implement, a Jew, chief of the priests at Ephesus (Acts
19:13-16); i.e., the head of one of the twenty-four courses of
the house of Levi. He had seven sons, who "took upon them to
call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord
Jesus," in imitation of Paul. They tried their method of
exorcism on a fierce demoniac, and failed. His answer to them
was to this effect (19:15): "The Jesus whom you invoke is One
whose authority I acknowledge; and the Paul whom you name I
recognize to be a servant or messenger of God; but what sort of
men are ye who have been empowered to act as you do by neither?"
(Lindsay on the Acts of the Apostles.)
(1.) This word denotes the special privileges and advantages
belonging to the first-born son among the Jews. He became the
priest of the family. Thus Reuben was the first-born of the
patriarchs, and so the priesthood of the tribes belonged to him.
That honour was, however, transferred by God from Reuben to Levi
(Num. 3:12, 13; 8:18).
(2.) The first-born son had allotted to him also a double
portion of the paternal inheritance (Deut. 21:15-17). Reuben
was, because of his undutiful conduct, deprived of his
birth-right (Gen. 49:4; 1 Chr. 5:1). Esau transferred his
birth-right to Jacob (Gen. 25:33).
(3.) The first-born inherited the judicial authority of his
father, whatever it might be (2 Chr. 21:3). By divine
appointment, however, David excluded Adonijah in favour of
(4.) The Jews attached a sacred importance to the rank of
"first-born" and "first-begotten" as applied to the Messiah
(Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:18; Heb. 1:4-6). As first-born he has an
inheritance superior to his brethren, and is the alone true
There are five instances of a census of the Jewish people having
been taken. (1.) In the fourth month after the Exodus, when the
people were encamped at Sinai. The number of men from twenty
years old and upward was then 603,550 (Ex. 38:26). (2.) Another
census was made just before the entrance into Canaan, when the
number was found to be 601,730, showing thus a small decrease
(Num. 26:51). (3.) The next census was in the time of David,
when the number, exclusive of the tribes of Levi and Benjamin,
was found to be 1,300,000 (2 Sam. 24:9; 1 Chr. 21:5). (4.)
Solomon made a census of the foreigners in the land, and found
153,600 able-bodied workmen (2 Chr. 2:17, 18). (5.) After the
return from Exile the whole congregation of Israel was numbered,
and found to amount to 42,360 (Ezra 2:64). A census was made by
the Roman government in the time of our Lord (Luke 2:1). (See
expulsion. (1.) The eldest son of Levi (1 Chr. 6:16, 17, 20, 43,
62, 71; 15:7)=GERSHON (q.v.).
(2.) The elder of the two sons of Moses born to him in Midian
(Ex. 2:22; 18:3). On his way to Egypt with his family, in
obedience to the command of the Lord, Moses was attacked by a
sudden and dangerous illness (4:24-26), which Zipporah his wife
believed to have been sent because he had neglected to
circumcise his son. She accordingly took a "sharp stone" and
circumcised her son Gershom, saying, "Surely a bloody husband
art thou to me", i.e., by the blood of her child she had, as it
were, purchased her husband, had won him back again.
(3.) A descendant of Phinehas who returned with Ezra from
Babylon (Ezra 8:2).
(4.) The son of Manasseh (Judg. 18:30), in R.V. "of Moses."
gift of God, a common Jewish name after the Exile. He was the
son of Alphaeus, and was a publican or tax-gatherer at
Capernaum. On one occasion Jesus, coming up from the side of the
lake, passed the custom-house where Matthew was seated, and said
to him, "Follow me." Matthew arose and followed him, and became
his disciple (Matt. 9:9). Formerly the name by which he was
known was Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27); he now changed it,
possibly in grateful memory of his call, to Matthew. The same
day on which Jesus called him he made a "great feast" (Luke
5:29), a farewell feast, to which he invited Jesus and his
disciples, and probably also many of old associates. He was
afterwards selected as one of the twelve (6:15). His name does
not occur again in the Gospel history except in the lists of the
apostles. The last notice of him is in Acts 1:13. The time and
manner of his death are unknown.
hearing. (1.) The second son of Jacob by Leah (Gen. 29:33). He
was associated with Levi in the terrible act of vengeance
against Hamor and the Shechemites (34:25, 26). He was detained
by Joseph in Egypt as a hostage (42:24). His father, when dying,
pronounced a malediction against him (49:5-7). The words in the
Authorized Version (49:6), "they digged down a wall," ought to
be, as correctly rendered in the Revised Version, "they houghed
(2.) An aged saint who visited the temple when Jesus was being
presented before the Lord, and uttered lofty words of
thankgiving and of prophecy (Luke 2:29-35).
(3.) One of the ancestors of Joseph (Luke 3:30).
(4.) Surnamed Niger, i.e., "black," perhaps from his dark
complexion, a teacher of some distinction in the church of
Antioch (Acts 13:1-3). It has been supposed that this was the
Simon of Cyrene who bore Christ's cross. Note the number of
nationalities represented in the church at Antioch.
(5.) James (Acts 15:14) thus designates the apostle Peter
a descendant of the tribe of Levi (Ex. 6:25; Lev. 25:32; Num.
35:2; Josh. 21:3, 41). This name is, however, generally used as
the title of that portion of the tribe which was set apart for
the subordinate offices of the sanctuary service (1 Kings 8:4;
Ezra 2:70), as assistants to the priests.
When the Israelites left Egypt, the ancient manner of worship
was still observed by them, the eldest son of each house
inheriting the priest's office. At Sinai the first change in
this ancient practice was made. A hereditary priesthood in the
family of Aaron was then instituted (Ex. 28:1). But it was not
till that terrible scene in connection with the sin of the
golden calf that the tribe of Levi stood apart and began to
occupy a distinct position (Ex. 32). The religious primogeniture
was then conferred on this tribe, which henceforth was devoted
to the service of the sanctuary (Num. 3:11-13). They were
selected for this purpose because of their zeal for the glory of
God (Ex. 32:26), and because, as the tribe to which Moses and
Aaron belonged, they would naturally stand by the lawgiver in
The Levitical order consisted of all the descendants of Levi's
three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari; whilst Aaron, Amram's
son (Amram, son of Kohat), and his issue constituted the
The age and qualification for Levitical service are specified
in Num. 4:3, 23, 30, 39, 43, 47.
They were not included among the armies of Israel (Num. 1:47;
2:33; 26:62), but were reckoned by themselves. They were the
special guardians of the tabernacle (Num. 1:51; 18:22-24). The
Gershonites pitched their tents on the west of the tabernacle
(3:23), the Kohathites on the south (3:29), the Merarites on the
north (3:35), and the priests on the east (3:38). It was their
duty to move the tent and carry the parts of the sacred
structure from place to place. They were given to Aaron and his
sons the priests to wait upon them and do work for them at the
sanctuary services (Num. 8:19; 18:2-6).
As being wholly consecrated to the service of the Lord, they
had no territorial possessions. Jehovah was their inheritance
(Num. 18:20; 26:62; Deut. 10:9; 18:1, 2), and for their support
it was ordained that they should receive from the other tribes
the tithes of the produce of the land. Forty-eight cities also
were assigned to them, thirteen of which were for the priests
"to dwell in", i.e., along with their other inhabitants. Along
with their dwellings they had "suburbs", i.e., "commons", for
their herds and flocks, and also fields and vineyards (Num.
35:2-5). Nine of these cities were in Judah, three in Naphtali,
and four in each of the other tribes (Josh. 21). Six of the
Levitical cities were set apart as "cities of refuge" (q.v.).
Thus the Levites were scattered among the tribes to keep alive
among them the knowledge and service of God. (See PRIEST
the eldest son of Amram and Jochebed, a daughter of Levi (Ex.
6:20). Some explain the name as meaning mountaineer, others
mountain of strength, illuminator. He was born in Egypt three
years before his brother Moses, and a number of years after his
sister Miriam (2:1,4; 7:7). He married Elisheba, the daughter of
Amminadab of the house of Judah (6:23; 1 Chr. 2:10), by whom he
had four sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. When the
time for the deliverance of Isarael out of Egypt drew nigh, he
was sent by God (Ex. 4:14,27-30) to meet his long-absent
brother, that he might co-operate with him in all that they were
required to do in bringing about the Exodus. He was to be the
"mouth" or "prophet" of Moses, i.e., was to speak for him,
because he was a man of a ready utterance (7:1,2,9,10,19). He
was faithful to his trust, and stood by Moses in all his
interviews with Pharaoh.
When the ransomed tribes fought their first battle with Amalek
in Rephidim, Moses stood on a hill overlooking the scene of the
conflict with the rod of God in his outstretched hand. On this
occasion he was attended by Aaron and Hur, his sister's husband,
who held up his wearied hands till Joshua and the chosen
warriors of Israel gained the victory (17:8-13).
Afterwards, when encamped before Sinai, and when Moses at the
command of God ascended the mount to receive the tables of the
law, Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, along with seventy
of the elders of Israel, were permitted to accompany him part of
the way, and to behold afar off the manifestation of the glory
of Israel's God (Ex. 19:24; 24:9-11). While Moses remained on
the mountain with God, Aaron returned unto the people; and
yielding through fear, or ignorance, or instability of
character, to their clamour, made unto them a golden calf, and
set it up as an object of worship (Ex. 32:4; Ps. 106:19). On the
return of Moses to the camp, Aaron was sternly rebuked by him
for the part he had acted in this matter; but he interceded for
him before God, who forgave his sin (Deut. 9:20).
On the mount, Moses received instructions regarding the system
of worship which was to be set up among the people; and in
accordance therewith Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the
priest's office (Lev. 8; 9). Aaron, as high priest, held
henceforth the prominent place appertaining to that office.
When Israel had reached Hazeroth, in "the wilderness of
Paran," Aaron joined with his sister Miriam in murmuring against
Moses, "because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married,"
probably after the death of Zipporah. But the Lord vindicated
his servant Moses, and punished Miriam with leprosy (Num. 12).
Aaron acknowledged his own and his sister's guilt, and at the
intercession of Moses they were forgiven.
Twenty years after this, when the children of Israel were
encamped in the wilderness of Paran, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram
conspired against Aaron and his sons; but a fearful judgment
from God fell upon them, and they were destroyed, and the next
day thousands of the people also perished by a fierce
pestilence, the ravages of which were only stayed by the
interposition of Aaron (Num. 16). That there might be further
evidence of the divine appointment of Aaron to the priestly
office, the chiefs of the tribes were each required to bring to
Moses a rod bearing on it the name of his tribe. And these,
along with the rod of Aaron for the tribe of Levi, were laid up
overnight in the tabernacle, and in the morning it was found
that while the other rods remained unchanged, that of Aaron "for
the house of Levi" budded, blossomed, and yielded almonds (Num.
17:1-10). This rod was afterwards preserved in the tabernacle
(Heb. 9:4) as a memorial of the divine attestation of his
appointment to the priesthood.
Aaron was implicated in the sin of his brother at Meribah
(Num. 20:8-13), and on that account was not permitted to enter
the Promised Land. When the tribes arrived at Mount Hor, "in the
edge of the land of Edom," at the command of God Moses led Aaron
and his son Eleazar to the top of that mountain, in the sight of
all the people. There he stripped Aaron of his priestly
vestments, and put them upon Eleazar; and there Aaron died on
the top of the mount, being 123 years old (Num. 20:23-29. Comp.
Deut. 10:6; 32:50), and was "gathered unto his people." The
people, "even all the house of Israel," mourned for him thirty
days. Of Aaron's sons two survived him, Eleazar, whose family
held the high-priesthood till the time of Eli; and Ithamar, in
whose family, beginning with Eli, the high-priesthood was held
till the time of Solomon. Aaron's other two sons had been struck
dead (Lev. 10:1,2) for the daring impiety of offering "strange
fire" on the alter of incense.
The Arabs still show with veneration the traditionary site of
Aaron's grave on one of the two summits of Mount Hor, which is
marked by a Mohammedan chapel. His name is mentioned in the
Koran, and there are found in the writings of the rabbins many
fabulous stories regarding him.
He was the first anointed priest. His descendants, "the house
of Aaron," constituted the priesthood in general. In the time of
David they were very numerous (1 Chr. 12:27). The other branches
of the tribe of Levi held subordinate positions in connection
with the sacred office. Aaron was a type of Christ in his
official character as the high priest. His priesthood was a
"shadow of heavenly things," and was intended to lead the people
of Israel to look forward to the time when "another priest"
would arise "after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:20). (See
son of consolation, the surname of Joses, a Levite (Acts 4:36).
His name stands first on the list of prophets and teachers of
the church at Antioch (13:1). Luke speaks of him as a "good man"
(11:24). He was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. He
was a native of Cyprus, where he had a possession of land (Acts
4:36, 37), which he sold. His personal appearance is supposed to
have been dignified and commanding (Acts 14:11, 12). When Paul
returned to Jerusalem after his conversion, Barnabas took him
and introduced him to the apostles (9:27). They had probably
been companions as students in the school of Gamaliel.
The prosperity of the church at Antioch led the apostles and
brethren at Jerusalem to send Barnabas thither to superintend
the movement. He found the work so extensive and weighty that he
went to Tarsus in search of Saul to assist him. Saul returned
with him to Antioch and laboured with him for a whole year (Acts
11:25, 26). The two were at the end of this period sent up to
Jerusalem with the contributions the church at Antioch had made
for the poorer brethren there (11:28-30). Shortly after they
returned, bringing John Mark with them, they were appointed as
missionaries to the heathen world, and in this capacity visited
Cyprus and some of the principal cities of Asia Minor (Acts
13:14). Returning from this first missionary journey to Antioch,
they were again sent up to Jerusalem to consult with the church
there regarding the relation of Gentiles to the church (Acts
15:2: Gal. 2:1). This matter having been settled, they returned
again to Antioch, bringing the decree of the council as the rule
by which Gentiles were to be admitted into the church.
When about to set forth on a second missionary journey, a
dispute arose between Saul and Barnabas as to the propriety of
taking John Mark with them again. The dispute ended by Saul and
Barnabas taking separate routes. Saul took Silas as his
companion, and journeyed through Syria and Cilicia; while
Barnabas took his nephew John Mark, and visited Cyprus (Acts
15:36-41). Barnabas is not again mentioned by Luke in the Acts.
king of righteousness, the king of Salem (q.v.). All we know of
him is recorded in Gen. 14:18-20. He is subsequently mentioned
only once in the Old Testament, in Ps. 110:4. The typical
significance of his history is set forth in detail in the
Epistle to the Hebrews, ch. 7. The apostle there points out the
superiority of his priesthood to that of Aaron in these several
respects, (1) Even Abraham paid him tithes; (2) he blessed
Abraham; (3) he is the type of a Priest who lives for ever; (4)
Levi, yet unborn, paid him tithes in the person of Abraham; (5)
the permanence of his priesthood in Christ implied the
abrogation of the Levitical system; (6) he was made priest not
without an oath; and (7) his priesthood can neither be
transmitted nor interrupted by death: "this man, because he
continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood."
The question as to who this mysterious personage was has given
rise to a great deal of modern speculation. It is an old
tradition among the Jews that he was Shem, the son of Noah, who
may have survived to this time. Melchizedek was a Canaanitish
prince, a worshipper of the true God, and in his peculiar
history and character an instructive type of our Lord, the great
High Priest (Heb. 5:6, 7; 6:20). One of the Amarna tablets is
from Ebed-Tob, king of Jerusalem, the successor of Melchizedek,
in which he claims the very attributes and dignity given to
Melchizedek in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
famous. (1.) A son of Gershon, and grandson of Levi (Num. 3:18;
1 Chr. 6:17, 29); called Shimi in Ex. 6:17.
(2.) A Benjamite of the house of Saul, who stoned and cursed
David when he reached Bahurim in his flight from Jerusalem on
the occasion of the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam. 16:5-13). After
the defeat of Absalom he "came cringing to the king, humbly
suing for pardon, bringing with him a thousand of his Benjamite
tribesmen, and representing that he was heartily sorry for his
crime, and had hurried the first of all the house of Israel to
offer homage to the king" (19:16-23). David forgave him; but on
his death-bed he gave Solomon special instructions regarding
Shimei, of whose fidelity he seems to have been in doubt (1
Kings 2:8,9). He was put to death at the command of Solomon,
because he had violated his word by leaving Jerusalem and going
to Gath to recover two of his servants who had escaped (36-46).
(3.) One of David's mighty men who refused to acknowledge
Adonijah as David's successor (1 Kings 1:8). He is probably the
same person who is called elsewhere (4:18) "the son of Elah."
(4.) A son of Pedaiah, the brother of Zerubbabel (1 Chr.
(5.) A Simeonite (1 Chr. 4:26, 27).
(6.) A Reubenite (1 Chr. 5:4).
(7.) A Levite of the family of Gershon (1 Chr. 6:42).
(8.) A Ramathite who was "over the vineyards" of David (1 Chr.
(9.) One of the sons of Heman, who assisted in the
purification of the temple (2 Chr. 29:14).
(10.) A Levite (2 Chr. 31:12, 13).
(11.) Another Levite (Ezra 10:23). "The family of Shimei"
(Zech. 12:13; R.V., "the family of the Shimeites") were the
descendants of Shimei (1).
Ephraim, The tribe of
took precedence over that of Manasseh by virtue of Jacob's
blessing (Gen. 41:52; 48:1). The descendants of Joseph formed
two of the tribes of Israel, whereas each of the other sons of
Jacob was the founder of only one tribe. Thus there were in
reality thirteen tribes; but the number twelve was preserved by
excluding that of Levi when Ephraim and Manasseh are mentioned
separately (Num. 1:32-34; Josh. 17:14, 17; 1 Chr. 7:20).
Territory of. At the time of the first census in the
wilderness this tribe numbered 40,500 (Num. 1:32, 33); forty
years later, when about to take possession of the Promised Land,
it numbered only 32,500. During the march (see CAMP ¯T0000700)
Ephraim's place was on the west side of the tabernacle (Num.
2:18-24). When the spies were sent out to spy the land, "Oshea
the son of Nun" of this tribe signalized himself.
The boundaries of the portion of the land assigned to Ephraim
are given in Josh. 16:1-10. It included most of what was
afterwards called Samaria as distinguished from Judea and
Galilee. It thus lay in the centre of all traffic, from north to
south, and from Jordan to the sea, and was about 55 miles long
and 30 broad. The tabernacle and the ark were deposited within
its limits at Shiloh, where it remained for four hundred years.
During the time of the judges and the first stage of the
monarchy this tribe manifested a domineering and haughty and
discontented spirit. "For more than five hundred years, a period
equal to that which elapsed between the Norman Conquest and the
War of the Roses, Ephraim, with its two dependent tribes of
Manasseh and Benjamin, exercised undisputed pre-eminence. Joshua
the first conqueror, Gideon the greatest of the judges, and Saul
the first king, belonged to one or other of the three tribes. It
was not till the close of the first period of Jewish history
that God 'refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the
tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion
which he loved' (Ps. 78:67, 68). When the ark was removed from
Shiloh to Zion the power of Ephraim was humbled."
Among the causes which operated to bring about the disruption
of Israel was Ephraim's jealousy of the growing power of Judah.
From the settlement of Canaan till the time of David and
Solomon, Ephraim had held the place of honour among the tribes.
It occupied the central and fairest portions of the land, and
had Shiloh and Shechem within its borders. But now when
Jerusalem became the capital of the kingdom, and the centre of
power and worship for the whole nation of Israel, Ephraim
declined in influence. The discontent came to a crisis by
Rehoboam's refusal to grant certain redresses that were demanded
(1 Kings 12).
The Heb. kohen, Gr. hierus, Lat. sacerdos, always denote one who
At first every man was his own priest, and presented his own
sacrifices before God. Afterwards that office devolved on the
head of the family, as in the cases of Noah (Gen. 8:20), Abraham
(12:7; 13:4), Isaac (26:25), Jacob (31:54), and Job (Job 1:5).
The name first occurs as applied to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18).
Under the Levitical arrangements the office of the priesthood
was limited to the tribe of Levi, and to only one family of that
tribe, the family of Aaron. Certain laws respecting the
qualifications of priests are given in Lev. 21:16-23. There are
ordinances also regarding the priests' dress (Ex. 28:40-43) and
the manner of their consecration to the office (29:1-37).
Their duties were manifold (Ex. 27:20, 21; 29:38-44; Lev.
6:12; 10:11; 24:8; Num. 10:1-10; Deut. 17:8-13; 33:10; Mal.
2:7). They represented the people before God, and offered the
various sacrifices prescribed in the law.
In the time of David the priests were divided into twenty-four
courses or classes (1 Chr. 24:7-18). This number was retained
after the Captivity (Ezra 2:36-39; Neh. 7:39-42).
"The priests were not distributed over the country, but lived
together in certain cities [forty-eight in number, of which six
were cities of refuge, q.v.], which had been assigned to their
use. From thence they went up by turns to minister in the temple
at Jerusalem. Thus the religious instruction of the people in
the country generally was left to the heads of families, until
the establishment of synagogues, an event which did not take
place till the return from the Captivity, and which was the main
source of the freedom from idolatry that became as marked a
feature of the Jewish people thenceforward as its practice had
been hitherto their great national sin."
The whole priestly system of the Jews was typical. It was a
shadow of which the body is Christ. The priests all prefigured
the great Priest who offered "one sacrifice for sins" "once for
all" (Heb. 10:10, 12). There is now no human priesthood. (See
Epistle to the Hebrews throughout.) The term "priest" is indeed
applied to believers (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), but in these cases
it implies no sacerdotal functions. All true believers are now
"kings and priests unto God." As priests they have free access
into the holiest of all, and offer up the sacrifices of praise
and thanksgiving, and the sacrifices of grateful service from
day to day.